Those of you who know me from my previous articles know that I’m a huge fan of practicing material written for instruments other than the saxophone. Part of this is that I’m always looking for new practice material, and that the saxophone is a relative baby on the scene, so relative to other instruments there’s not all that much repertoire specifically for the saxophone. Also, practicing material written for another instrument stretches your imagination, forcing you adapt things that weren’t meant to be played on your instrument. For example, many of Bach’s partitas and sonatas for violin, flute, and cello lay beautifully on the saxophone, and it’s said that Coltrane practiced his wife Alice’s harp exercises quite seriously, which I’m sure gave him lots of the vertically-oriented ideas that he was known for.
So I’d like to share five of my favorite Hanon exercises to practice on the saxophone. For those of you unfamiliar with Hanon, for over a hundred years now, his three books of piano exercises have been the gold standard for building technique on the piano. You can bet your favorite box of reeds that any serious pianist has spent considerable time with these.
Maximizing Your Results
Here are three suggestions that will help you get the best results from practicing these exercises:
- As with just about any exercise or pattern, make sure you play these from top to bottom of your saxophone range.
- Play them in as many keys as you can.
- Don’t just play these with one kind of articulation – try as many different articulations as you can once you’re comfortable with the patterns.